Sefer ha-Middot (Orḥot Ẓaddikim)

Middot are human dispositions or character traits. Sefer ha-Middot ("The Book of Character Traits") is a popular Jewish ethical treatise by an anonymous late medieval author; manuscript and other evidence places its composition in the 14th century. Its author was apparently of French origin. The book has been known as Orot Ẓaddikim ("The Ways of the Righteous") ever since its first edition was published under that title (Prague, 1581).

In 2001 I was privileged to notice a manuscript containing a previously unknown appendix to the book, which had been missing for centuries and was never previously published. That section is labeled Simanei Sefer ha-Middot in the manuscript ("Synopses of the Book of Character Traits"), and was mentioned by the author earlier in the book. It is now freely available here.

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Simanei Sefer ha-Middot

At the end of Sefer ha-Middot ms. Warsaw (1430), the oldest extant manuscript of the book, is a synopsis of the book's chapters (labeled Simanei Sefer ha-Middot by the scribe). This text fits as the missing summary referred to at the end of the chapter on Memory, where the author wrote: "And the synopses of the general points about human dispositions that are written at the end of the book, one should review them twice a day...". Thus, a part of Sefer ha-Middot that was missing for nearly six centuries has now been recovered.
  • The current edition of Simanei Sefer ha-Middot with a brief introduction, textual notes, and two formatted versions of the text (both with and without niqqud), last updated 5771 (2010)ODT (LibreOffice)PDF.
  • My very first published edition of Simanei Sefer ha-Middot, 5764 (2004): DOC | PDFNot updated.
  • An image of the manuscript: PDF.
    • A line-by-line transcription of the manuscript (draft quality): DOC.

    The Adler Manuscript

    The Adler manuscript is found in the private library of Dr. Mark and Leah Adler in Lawrence, NY. It is a beautiful copy of the full book that was written in 1486. Unlike other early manuscripts, no parts of the book at all are missing in this copy (with the exception of the simanim), and its overall accuracy is quite good. Any corrected edition of Sefer ha-Middot must therefore take the Adler manuscript into account.

    The following materials are currently available regarding this manuscript: A description of the manuscript with an evaluation of its text, and images of the end of the book that have been graciously provided by the Adlers.
    • Images of the end of the ms and its colophon: PDF.
    • A description and evaluation of the manuscript: PDF (embedded).

    Sefer ha-Middot ha-Qazar (SMQ)

    An abbreviated version of the book as found in ms. Warsaw (1430); the division of some chapters and their sequence differs from all other manuscripts and printed versions. This is also the earliest known manuscript of Sefer ha-Middot (Orḥot Ẓaddikim).

    The following materials are currently available on Sefer ha-Middot ha-Qazar (SMQ). Please feel free to download and study them:
    • An image of the SMQ manuscript: DjVuPDF.
    • A transcription of SMQ (draft quality)DOC PDF.

    New Digital Edition (2010)

    My work on Simanei Sefer ha-Middot has been incorporated within a new digital edition of the entire book found at the Hebrew Wikisource website.
    The new edition contains a wealth of information and materials. Much of what I have made available at this webpage in the past is now superfluous, but I will keep it all here in case someone eventually finds any part of it useful.

    Introductory essay

    Future Project: An introductory essay dealing with important ideas found in the book and its place within the genre of works on human dispositions (middot) in Jewish and general literature (from Aristotle to Spinoza and beyond).

    New critical edition

    Future Project: A new corrected, punctuated and vocalized edition based on all available manuscript evidence and including Simanei Sefer ha-Middot.

    Other online sources:

    Seforim Online hosts PDF versions of Simanei Sefer ha-Middot and related material:


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